These Airwaves Are Free!

Earlier this year I talked about freeing the airwaves. On election day the FCC unanimously agreed to open the bits of the spectrum between broadcast TV channels to anyone. If you haven’t read about it, more information is available on the Google Blog here.

So why is this such a big deal? Take a look at the Electromagnetic Spectrum. (Aside: Human reality is everything we can touch, smell, taste, see and hear—a minuscule portion of the spectrum. We miss out on a lot of the world’s wonders.) Notice the massive amount of spectrum devoted to radio and TV.

Electromagnetic Spectrum from Wikipedia

Looking at this band in more detail we see a complicated mess.

US Spectrum Allocation (from

Full version available here as a pdf.

Radio and TV used to be the only devices in this space, but the way we live our lives is changing and the spectrum allocations should too. The FCC has taken a step in the right direction, although I hope we continue to open the spectrum and allow innovation in the whitespaces to flourish.